By Shannon Johnson
“The first day taking over the radio station, I guess, was October 1st of this year, although I don’t really look at it as taking over. It’s more like that was the day that I just became responsible for paying the bills,” Jay Newell, the new owner of KFLN/KJJM radio stations joked.
“I don’t really look at it as being interested in the field rather than being suckered into it by my dad,” he playfully said with a laugh.
Jay, a Baker native and son of Russ and Jerrie Newell, graduated from Baker High School in 1987. “After high school, [I] moved to Billings to go to what was Eastern Montana College at the time, MSU-B now, to study business. While I was going to school there, I got a part time job in radio which eventually turned into a full-time job, so I left school and concentrated on the radio thing,” he explained. “I guess I got lucky and wound up on the air here in Billings for 20 years.”
Radio is family business for Jay. His father, Russ, was the previous owner of the former Newell Broadcasting now Newell Media, LLC. “He bought the stations in the early 80s, and he’d been working there since he was in high school back in the 60s. When I was in high school, he trained me and I just kind of started working in the family business. I was able to take the skills he taught me when I left Baker and find a place on the radio in Billings for a couple decades,” added Jay.
The family business has played a big role in Jay’s career. “I worked for about five years in Baker on the radio then came up to Billings and worked for twenty plus years in the radio business here. I started part-time on KCTR doing whatever they needed, on-air, remote broadcast set-up, ball game board operator, you name it…and eventually worked my way up to Operations Manager, overseeing the programming for our group of 4 FM’s and 1 AM station,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with many radio corporations. Some small, some [are] the biggest broadcast companies in the country, including the biggest radio broadcast company in the world at the time, Clear Channel, so I’ve had great opportunities to learn from some extremely successful major market radio pros and consultants, some of the biggest and best in the industry. Since leaving the air in Billings in 2009, I’ve been working from home doing voice overs and freelance work.”
Jay currently lives in Billings, and he has no plans to move to Baker, although he does intend to spend a lot more time here, as he eagerly begins his new chapter. “Over the years I’ve only made it back about once or twice a year, but now that I’m more involved in the radio station operation, it’ll be much more often than that.”